Criticism Grows Over New York Department of Health’s “Oversight” of Nursing Homes

Only two weeks after putting a Buffalo nursing home under conservatorship, the New York Department of Health announced that Emerald North and Emerald South Nursing and Rehabilitation Center will be closing their doors. The closure follows a long line of missteps and scandals by the formerly for-profit nursing homes, according to The Buffalo News. In the last year, an elderly woman was beaten to death in the facility’s dementia unit and another nursing home resident died after falling from a third-story window. The two nursing homes, which are owned by the same for-profit organization, were fined over $100,000 in 2017 for not maintaining accurate records on whether patients wanted to be revived in the event of a medical emergency. Tragically, the nursing home’s gross misstep was only discovered after a revived patient was found to have a “do not resuscitate” order.

The nursing homes, which have below average ratings by Medicare, continued to operate with the blessing of the Department of Health for almost an entire year after these scandals. Last month, the Department of Health finally appointed Grand Healthcare System as the nursing homes new operator. At the time of the government agency’s appointment, nursing home residents and their families criticized the appointment of another for-profit nursing home system. Their concerns proved well-founded when Grand Healthcare System announced it would be shutting down both nursing homes and opening new facilities under a different name.

While the for-profit nursing home corporation states that all residents will be transferred to another facility in the local area, the debacle appears to provide just another example of the Department of Health’s poor oversight and regulation of New York’s nursing home industry. In an illuminating piece by Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle, the newspaper attempts to investigate the Department of Health’s Performance Monitoring Program – a state program intended to crack down on abusive and negligent nursing homes. Despite a state-mandate to enact the program after an investigation showed serious lapses in oversight, the newspaper’s investigation suggests the Department of Health failed to implement the program, in any capacity.

The report mandated the creation of a state “Performance Monitoring System and included detailed recommendations, such as fining repeat violators and overhauling program oversight of problematic nursing homes. The Health Department apparently did not feel this program was worth the effort and the only nursing homes subject to increased monitoring were the 16 originally identified in the government report. The agency did not fine any nursing homes in connection with the program, according to the newspaper. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the agency refused to share any further details about the oversight program. After failing to protect Emerald North’s clearly endangered nursing home residents from their profit-making operators, the criticism against the state agency will only grow louder.

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